Monday, 8 March 2010
Golwg COLUMN: Budget forecast
Everyone has an interest in the pence. In the political calender the budget is one of the few things that happen in Parliament that grabs the attention of the public. Its not a big mystery, why.
We’re all eager to know how the budget effects our pockets.
Before long the Chancellor will be standing outside the doorstep of the Treasury teasing us as to the content by waving his red bag. Every budget is important but without doubt the budget before an election is in a different league. It could make the difference between winning or losing the contest.
Its likely that one of the reasons that Gordon Brown has postponed the date of the general election is to get his budget in before he faces the country. But there’s an old chinese proverb which says ‘Be careful of what you wish for,’ Experience tells us that setting a budget is not always to the advantage of the government of the day.
Forty years ago, the then Chancellor Roy Jenkins was responsible for setting the pre-election budget. He set a budget that was good for the country but not by a long chalk good for his party. Those in his party judged him for not being generous enough and as a consequence Harold Wilson’s government were defeated in the following October election. Jenkins was not forgiven and consequently was sent to Europe and out of his party forever.
And that’s Alistair Darling’s dilemma. Should he do his best for the country or his party? It is understood that Treasury officials want a budget that really tackles the country’s enormous deficit. They’re advising that taxes should be increased and the axe taken without mercy to public expenditure. The Governor of the Bank of England is singing from the same hymn sheet, cuts and taxes is the refrain.
But that isn’t the view of his party especially his fellow Members of Parliament they want a relatively generous budget. Something that brings some comfort to the electorate. And just perhaps that warm feeling lasts long enough to influence the electorate to vote in a way that saves their skins.
The Labour government or the country? And that is what Mr Darling has decide. And what will his decision be? Well, until recently most would have thought that he would have done his best to try to secure his old political friend Mr Brown’s future. But since Mr Brown turned his back on him the old loyalty is no longer there
Mr Darling’s stock has risen in comparison to the decline in that of Mr Brown’s. He’s his own man at last. Insiders say he is well regarded by the City and Treasury officials.
I suspect that he is more likely to frame a budget to please them rather than is own party.
If so, on budget day we Welsh will not be opening the champagne.